Giuliani Says Innocent Until Proven Guilty - Keeps Accused Priest As Consultant

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 7:53 AM PDT

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, despite some protests from the community, is retaining his longtime friend, Monsignor Alan Placa, as a consultant for his 2008 campaign. Placa, who officiated at Giuliana's second wedding, has been accused of sexually abusing two former students and an altar boy. He has been told by the church to discontinue performing his duties as a priest.

One of the people objecting to Giuliani's decision, an alleged victim of Placa's, says that Place abused him repeatedly in 1975 when he was a student at a boys' school on Long Island.

The candidate said of Placa: "I know the man; I know who he is, so I support him. We give some of the worst people in our society the presumption of innocence and benefit of the doubt. And, of course, I'm going to give that to one of my closest friends."

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Placa also served as an attorney for his diocese, and handled allegations of sexual abuse made against other priests. According to a grand jury report, his work saved the diocese hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is accused of sometimes conducting legal interviews while in his vestments, and failing to identify himself as an attorney.

It is hard to know which way the political wind might blow on this issue. Several former students testified that there was never any scandal about Placa at the school. There are also a number of Catholics who have expressed outrage over the high number of priest sexual abuse cases in the U.S.; however, many have also been upset when their own priests have been accused of misconduct and had their reputations sullied before undergoing any type of trial or investigation. And there is always something to be said for the concept of "guilty until proven innocent."

What Placa does for Giuliani's campaign is not clear. He has maintained a residence at a church rectory on Long Island, and he co-owns a waterfront apartment in Battery Park City.

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